The course that I teach is Veterinary Medicine. It is taken by high school juniors and seniors. Many of my students know they want to pursue a veterinary or vet tech path. Other students are taking my course to see what is out there; they love animals but are not sure how to weave that love into a future career. The challenge going into the school year was how to provide meaningful experiences for the students which are rich in content and exploration (I am not a veterinarian).
My approach follows the model which my school uses – community interactions. Depending on the course you teach, you may not be able to incorporate this model to the full extent, but I believe each classroom could implement a little community interaction for a win-win. With all of our community interactions, I tweet pictures and quips about our experiences. This gets the word out about our business partners AND gives us community exposure!
- Guest speakers – This is the easiest to implement since it does not require buses, permission slips and budget. I used to be afraid? embarrassed? t
o call someone up to ask them to come speak to my class, feeling like it would be an imposition. Not anymore! I have found folks are very supportive of education; professionals love sharing their passion with students! I have had veterinarians, vet techs, ranchers, former students who are pre-vet, and even a speaker representing the beef industry.
- No farther than your own backyard – Of course your school grounds could be a utopia for teaching, but have you looked at the people there? The nurses in my building have been invaluable a teaching my students skills (intramuscular injections, venipuncture, catheterization). Have you have talked to your School Resource Officer about speaking to your class? He/she could lend a wonderful application of biotechnology via crime scene evidence during your unit on DNA.
- Not-for-profits as a resource – Charitable organizations love to get their message out! Many of them have educational programs already in place. For your class, consider a local food bank during a unit on nutrition or digestion. What about a visit from a cancer philanthropy during your cell unit or a conservation group during your environmental unit? The possibilities are endless! This quarter, my students spend Thursdays at a local horse rescue (http://horsesave.com/). We learned shelter medicine AT the animal shelter (http://www.waysidewaifs.org) and continue to go their regularly. Students are getting HANDS-ON experience working with horses, lending a hand to the owner.
- Businesses (small, big and everything in between!) – Look into businesses that sell services or products which have an application to your class. For example, I have had a dog trainer come to my class. We had “BYOD day (bring your own dog)” and had a training session on school grounds. Another example? I have built relationships with two large veterinary pharmaceutical companies in my area. One offers us guest speakers. The students love asking questions about how they got where they are. The other company designed a project for my students to work on. Real world experiences!!
- Site visits – Transportation (and thus budget) is an issue to taking the students on site visits. All of my students & parents have signed a blanket field trip form allowing them to drive themselves, carpool, or take school transportation. This has greatly simplified the possibility of seeing what professionals do where they do it! We have gone to private farms, a dairy, various sizes of cattle ranches, the Zoo and a slaughter/processing facility (wow – we saw the lymph nodes which are an important part of the meat inspection process!). Where could you go to punctuate what you are learning in the classroom?
- Professional societies – Something that you teach will a professional society associated with it. Contact them. See if there are speakers, conferences or field trips your students could attend. You are spreading the word about what they do to a potential market (your students). For example, for years Eric Kessler has been taking students on the Kansas Herpetological Society field trips (http://www.cnah.org/khs/). Students walk fields WITH herpetologists, learning from them as they go!
I feel that we have the ultimate flipped classroom using this model! We are out of the classroom 3-4 days a week. We SEE/DO the concepts in real-world settings, the return to the classroom to apply and process what we have learned. As we have these experiences, student vocabulary and knowledge increases at a rate faster than if we would have presented the material in the classroom.
Students keep a lab notebook where they document and diagram what they learn. I have skills practicals where they are warranted. Students practice writing gracious and meaningful thank you notes following our interactions.
I challenge you to add just ONE community interaction this semester!
Now a question for you: how else would you hold students accountable for their learning? Do you have other ideas for me from “in YOUR classroom” regarding accountablity in this setting?